When Drew Moreland announced himself to the Texas music scene in 2018 with his debut, self-titled album, not only did he fit right in, he felt like a seasoned veteran. A single from the album, “God & Cash,” has since accrued well over 200,000 streams and connected with listeners around the world.
With his next release, Moreland was tasked with doubling down on that success and proving he still belonged. Again recording his sophomore release in his single wide trailer, Moreland has done just that with his EP Feeling Good Again. From the opening title track, which feels all too relevant in 2020 to the closing note of the emotional, acoustic “Making Me Old,” Moreland offers his uniquely honest perspective on this four-song set.
We chatted with Moreland all about the success of his self-titled debut, his recording setup in his trailer, all of the songs on Feeling Good Again, his newfound perspective on live music and more!
Pro Country: You’re just over two years removed from the release of your debut, self-titled album, which was recorded in your single wide trailer. How did the experience of recording that record help you as you were preparing to record your new EP Feeling Good Again?
Drew Moreland: Well, to start, Feeling Good Again was also recorded in a single wide trailer [laughs]. I guess the biggest thing I got from my debut album was confidence. It’s hard to know how an album will be received until it’s been released. I never imagined that music recorded in my makeshift studio space would compete with projects that cost more than twice as much and were done entirely in professional studios. You can’t know how your music will be received until it’s been out in the universe for a while and folks get their hands and heads wrapped around it. Having released an album that was so well received made it a lot easier to get started on the next project; with confidence in my recording process. But success can be a double edged sword. The bar has been set pretty high. In the back of my mind, I wonder if my next releases will live up to the expectations of myself and others.
PC: “God & Cash” from your debut album has gone on to earn well over 200,000 streams on Spotify with several thousand more views on YouTube. Is there a certain level of validation that comes with having that success on your debut album?
DM: It definitely feels nice to have written and produced a song that so many people love. “God & Cash” felt special from day one when my co-writer, Garland Lee Wenner, showed the idea to me. It was one of the first songs we worked on together, and we actually finished it before I had even decided to record any songs or play country music full time. We pitched it to a couple different people. To our surprise, no one seemed particularly interested, and one of our more successful songwriting friends in Nashville had some suggested revisions that would have made the chorus pretty kitschy. It really seemed like none of them understood the vision for the music. That was probably one of the things that helped push me over the threshold to decide to record and play the songs we had written together. Even still, “God & Cash” has failed to win any songwriting accolades or much recognition from music critics, but that only adds to the pleasure we take in having such a successful recording, and the confidence that there are plenty of people who love our brand of songwriting.
PC: The title track on Feeling Good Again is a remake of a Robert Earl Keen tune. Why did you decide to record the song and have it serve as the title track?
DM: I’ve been playing “Feeling Good Again” to open every live set since joining the Texas music scene back in 2017. It has been a nice, relaxing way to welcome folks to the honky tonks and dive bars we play in. Even though I have always had reservations about recording other people’s songs, “Feeling Good Again” seems like one we have really made our own. I made up my mind to put it on the new record when work commenced at the end of 2019, but it became more relevant than ever in the wake of global shutdowns. Most folks have been locked out of their home bars for almost a year, with little hope to return soon. The lyrics of the song are all about coming home to your bar family after being gone for a while, so I really thought it would be the most relevant song on this EP.
PC: “Let’s Go to Vegas” sounds as if it could have lived in the 90s. Is it at all important to you to have a level of sonic diversity where you tap into various classic country sounds?
DM: Sonic diversity isn’t something that I try for in an active way, but I certainly don’t try to eliminate it. I see a lot of artists and producers actually trying to remove sonic diversity from records in an attempt to achieve a consistent sound that will reinforce an artist’s brand image. Instead, I have opted to showcase my wide range of influences and capabilities. It makes it hard to put my musical catalog into a neat little marketable box, but the feedback I get from fans is that my albums are better for it. I can’t tell you how many times people have told me that the only CD they have in their truck is mine, because they bought it at a show (even though they don’t use CDs anymore), AND that they listen to it on repeat. Without diversity, an album gets boring quick. In an era dominated by Spotify singles, it is high praise to captivate a listener long enough to hear your entire album again and again. I don’t think I’ll ever create a concept album the likes of Dark Side of the Moon, but taking people on a journey should be the highest aspiration for putting together an album. Otherwise, you just have a group of songs.
PC: “Hanging Tree” offers a look back on the road that has led you to your present state. What are you most proud of along the journey you have traveled so far?
DM: Man, that’s a tough one. It would be a cop out to say that I am most proud of being successful. That sort of stuff is fleeting, and our fickle culture can fall out of love with you as quick as it came. One of the things that “Hanging Tree” talks about specifically is leaving behind the constraints and plans that other people have put on your life. Though it has been a very painful journey at times, I am most proud of how I have changed; pursuing the things I have always wanted and living out a life I feel I was built for. That kind of stuff takes a lifetime to sort out, but I am proud to be where I am today.
PC: Feeling Good Again’s closing track, “Making Me Old,” was recorded purely acoustic and discusses some of the trials that can come with artistry. Can you talk about the inspiration behind the song and what went into the decision to record it the way you did?
DM: For this album, I tried to record when I was actually in the mood of whatever song I was working on. It meant that production took longer, because there was a little bit of waiting around until that right mood hit. “Making Me Old” was recorded at 4am on a week night when I was pretty damn drunk. I was hanging out with my girlfriend and talking about some heavy stuff and just stood up and said it was time to record. The next morning when I listened back, it seemed perfect exactly how it was recorded; just me in my bedroom with a guitar.
PC: What do you hope listeners take away from Feeling Good Again after listening all the way through?
DM: I guess I don’t ever really get that far when I’m planning this stuff. I definitely intended this EP to be a journey, even if it is short, but it’s a journey told from my perspective. What people get out of it probably has more to do with their own life experience than anything else. You wouldn’t believe some of the stories I have heard about how folks relate to my songs. Sometimes they are close to what I was thinking when I wrote them, and other times, it’s something else entirely. It makes me happy either way.
Best I can tell, the most valuable aspect of my music, from writing to recording and even playing live, is honesty. I’ve never had any aspirations of making listeners feel a certain way or really affecting them specifically at all. I just try my best to tell stories from my perspective in an honest, intelligent, artful way, and hope that it connects with someone.
PC: 2020 has altered most of the plans of artists so far. Of the things you can control, what are your plans for the rest of the year?
DM: Sitting at home for a couple months really helped me to get some things into perspective. My first instinct was to drink whiskey and smoke cigars all day and wait until it was over. I did a few live streams, but that played out pretty quick. After sitting on my back porch and staring at the yard for countless hours, inspiration hit to just build a drive-in concert venue on my own property. The porch was already 8 feet tall and 40 feet wide, and we had 6 acres of space to park cars. I’m pretty sure we were the first place in the whole country to host live music when we opened the “Single Wide Studios Stage” on May 2. The response was overwhelming. It was like breathing air again for the first time to hear people cheering after every song.
Since then, live music hasn’t been the same. Every show has been well-attended with folks who are eager to hear and participate. I realized I had been in a rut and didn’t even know it, worn down from too many late nights in bars playing to folks who couldn’t care less. I have resolved to never get there again. In 2020, I will only be playing shows that I am excited about instead of trying to grind it out to pay the bills. There are much better things to do with my time, like working on new songs and recordings. I am stoked to be freed up to do that moving forward.
*Images courtesy of Drew Moreland Facebook page*
**Find Drew’s music featured on The Best of Pro Country playlist!**